I totally owe Sam for giving me this idea after I complained over our joint pot of tea that I didn’t know what to write about today.

While I derive nostalgic comfort from the mismatched china, doiley-draped tables, and super-squashy old fashioned couches at Lovejoy’s Tea Room, I get an entirely different sort of comfort when I take tea at Modern Tea on Hayes and Laguna.

The space is airy and bright, but not so bright that you are forced to squint at your companion across the contemporary light wood table (made by the owner’s husband, Greg Dunham, out of 100-year-old recycled Douglas fir), and actually epitomizes the feeling of “breathing room.” This might sound weird, but I felt as relaxed in that room as I do in a spa or after a bout of yoga. If it wasn’t such an overused descriptor, I might go so far as to say that there’s something very zen about the space. At least, I was very zenned out after leaving. That’s a good thing, by the way.

After polishing off a tea of a mini grapefruit curd and blueberry tart and butter cake spread with homemade strawberry preserves, I was pleasantly full but not stuffed. My personal pot of white needle tea was a refreshing pick-me-up that was quite bottomless, thanks to the attention of the calmly competent staff. Instead of traditional flowered china, Modern Tea serves their tea in plain white china pots and plain white china bowls, and the pot lids are held in place by handmade beading. It’s a cunning and unique concept, invented by the owner’s stepdaughter, that solves the issue of pot lids crashing to the table during steaming hot pours. If you purchase your own teapot from Modern Tea (and you can, from their little store), they come equipped with the crimped beading, and Modern Tea will even repair the beading if it happens to break. I think that just made up my mind about where I was going to buy a good teapot!

Going to Lovejoy’s in a big, noisy, group (maybe even wearing Ascot-ly dramatic hats?) is an Event, but I could see myself going to Modern Tea just to be by myself. I can’t say that about many places. There’s definitely room in this city for multiple tea shops, and I sort of love having a tea shop to fit my each of my various San Francisco moods.

Modern Tea offers more than just tea, however, and not only am I planning a trip back for dinner, I also feel a great need to sample their brunch because their waffles are made in 19th century waffle irons.

Modern Tea
602 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94102


Tuesday-Friday 11:30am-9:00pm
Saturday 10:30am-9:00pm
Sunday 10:30am-6:00pm
Mondays Closed

Tea’d Off: Modern Tea vs. Lovejoy’s 13 July,2006Stephanie Lucianovic

  • Brett

    Looks very civilized, in a Berkeley-Craftsman sort of way. I must drop in for a cuppa. Appears to possess a different vibe from one of my favorite tea houses, Samovar.

  • Amy Sherman

    Hmmm that photo looks very familiar! I like Modern Tea as well but was unimpressed by Lovejoy’s. It felt shabby to me and they used paper napkins. Feh.

  • Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

    I can’t say I noticed the paper napkins, but Lovejoy’s fulfills my need to have weensy, crustless sandwiches on soft bread with Britishy fillings like stilton and pear, bay shrimp and mayonnaise, and Branston pickle. Plus, their special Harrogate tea blend is bracing and delicious.

    However, I do wish that Lovejoy’s would use real British cheddar in that particular sandwich — it’s not hard to find in this city!


Stephanie Lucianovic

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED’s Emmy-award winning show “Check, Please! Bay Area.”

Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called “hilarious” and “the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn’t think he or she wants to read a popular science book.”

Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade.

Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport

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